Category: Music

Thomas Hampson in Heidelberg, again

By , April 23, 2009 03:08

Yesterday I was at the Heidelberger Frühling, visiting Thomas Hampson‘s Liederabend. When we bought the tickets, it was indicated, that he might be singing Schumann’s op. 39, something, that Thomas did not yet sing or record. Sadly that had been reverted to op. 35, and the concert also did cover Liszt songs and some of the Rückert songs by Mahler.

It seems, Thomas had hay fever, like many in the audience. That coughing “even in the quietest moments” is a bad habit, that does seem to get worse every time. Thomas was (due to the hay fever?) not as good, it seemed, he had some problems with the upper notes, but still, his voice is good, and his pronunciation of german is exquisit.

So, with some mixed emotions, I did enjoy the concert, but had heard better of him already.


Automatic composing? How good will this be?

By , September 28, 2007 01:40

Yesterday I saw in a german newsletter, that a person in Germany did create an automatic composing program named “Ludwig”. He did it, as he did his Check-program Fritz. Not by placing the algorithms of composing into the code, but by having the program place note after note, and then evaluating the quality. Even these quality evaluation rules aren’t hardcoded, but are looked up in a DataBase, that can be fed with new information. So, my real questions and concerns are:

  • How Automatic can one make the creative act of composing?
  • Will such things survive and replace “ordinary composers”?

As I asked in I am really curious, but find the idea itself interesting and challenging. Something to watch!


Thomas Hampson on American Song-writing

By , October 16, 2006 09:11

Thomas Hampson, my favourite living Bariton, shared his insights on public sharing of IP (in his case: music) and great american songwriters in an interview with WNYC. Really great listening, check it out:

In the same session, there also was a small episode on the greatest ever recorded album in america, Frank Sinatra’s “In the Wee Small Hours”. Also worth listening to!

Wagner 2: Lohengrin, Nagano, Lehnhoff, Baden-Baden

By , June 8, 2006 05:20

Yesterday we spent the afternoon in Baden-Baden, enjoying the highly acclaimed and praised performance of Wagner’s Lohengrin by Nikolas Lehnhoff, conducted by Kent Nagano. This was the third and last performance in Baden-Baden, I don’t know, if the participating operas (Lyon (Opera National) and Milano (Scala)) will host this performance also. If yes, go there! Or if any of these performances will lead to a DVD (which I would welcome!).

We again did prepare us by watching and listening to older videos and CDs of former performances, and by also listening to the introductory lectures given by Stefan Mickisch. We can highly recommend his CDs, they are fun listening to, and do provide a profound introduction to the theme and the music. The sad thing is: They are german only. But, those who love Wagner should also be able to understand german, at least a bit… ;-)

We also have to report some sad news: Yesterday, both Waltraud Meier and Klaus Florian Vogt (Ortrud and Lohengrin) were sick, and were not allowed to sing. Waltraud was replaced by Anette Bod, and Klaus Florian did the acting, and Stuart Skelton did the singing from the right side of the stage. Stuart was the Parsifal in Frankfurt (check my former blog), and we both agreed, that his voice was much better yesterday during his performance of Lohengrin, then during his performance of Parsifal. Although I’m not a fan of Waltraud, my feeling w.r.t. the performance of Anette was: She was “shrieking” to much. OK, this is also attributed to the role, but still, I hadn’t been completely convinced by her performance. But we missed Klaus Florian most, because he was praised that much (and I saw small snippets of his performance in TV shows in the last two days, which were really convincing!), and we were eager to listen to his performance. But: People (and singers) are human, and sickness can happen to anybody.

Putting these sad things aside, let’s look at the overall thing:

Highly recommended!

First: Kent Nagano made his orchestra, the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, perform clear and precise. I was able to hear things. I never heard before! This also made hear-able discrepencies, and tensions, that some other performances try to neglect.

Second: The setting was more modern, and as such allowed to concentrate more on the emotional problems the characters have (Elsa, for one: The driven, the victim). This also reflected in the movements of the people (not that much of “showing”, but more “human”).

Third: Singing was great, best yesterday was Tom Fox as Friedrich von Telramund.

Forth: The scenery fitted well with this “modern” setup. They placed a chair (backward facing) and a lecturn on a round plate, surrounded by an amphitheatre, so that all people “talking” were standing behind the lecturn and “announcing” their things and thoughts. This made the impression of a university setting from the 19th century. This was convincing, as we are dealing with a “high court”. The second movement had a stair-flight, which fitted well with the actions, and the third movement returned to the amphitheatre setting.

Short: We loved it!


By , June 2, 2006 05:59

Last week, again, was my birthday, and as the day after that was a public holiday, my girlfriend surprised me with tickets to a performance of Wagner’s opera Parsifal at Opera Frankfurt (check:

That day was a rainy day, so we both were really happy, that she did decide to spend that public holiday in the opera instead of in the open…;-)

To make it short:

We both highly recommend that!

Two years ago I had been to Baden-Baden to the highly acclaimed performance of Parsifal by Nikolaus Lehnhoff, conducted by Kent Nagano (check, for example: I went there for Thomas Hampson as Amfortas (as you can derive from the link), and loved it.

Next week we will be back to Baden-Baden to see Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s version of Lohengrin (sadly without Thomas Hampson).

To compare these two Parsifal performances, we did watch the DVD (which I really can recommend), in order to prepare ourselfes (and my girlfriend, who didn’t know this opera before), so we went to Frankfurt well prepared.

So, were did we see the differences?

First: In Frankfurt we had Julia Juon as Kundry. In Baden-Baden it was Waltraud Meier. Although the world seems to value Waltraud as better, we both agreed, that Julia was much better. This is attributed to the fact, that Julia has more volume in the deeper registers, and as Kundry is a person, that “suffers” from long-evity, and the incapability of dying, that possibility to perform sadness and being tired by expressing it in deep and low tones, made her superior to Waltraud.

Second: In Frankfurt the scenary was not that dark and black as in Baden-Baden. That made for more moving feelings. Still: That sadnees in the scenary in Baden-Baden was intentionally so. In Baden-Baden, the Gral (Holy Grail)-scene in the first movement was missing some of the glamour (which Lehnhoff did intentionally), but at least I valued the more “traditional” setup in Frankfurt more. Helping here was the voice of Titurel, because it had not been put into the echo/background, but still remained on stage, at the table, and Magnus Baldvinsson has a really great voice! This together made for the most moving putting-in-scenary of this episode I’ve ever seen or listened to.

The second and the third movement didn’t fall short, so, as stated above, we can really recommend that performance. And the orchester was great. The only sad thing to say (but that’s also true for the Baden-Baden version) is, that the bells were electronic, and not real.

Panorama Theme by Themocracy